Anniversaries and Reunions
This is a year of anniversaries and reunions for me. I guess that’s bound to happen as you get older. My 7th anniversary at BP3. My 20th reunion at Stanford. Most importantly for me, my 10th Wedding Anniversary (and also the 10th for many of our friends) is coming up. Also, in tech news, the 10th anniversary of the release of Firefox. It being Thanksgiving week, let’s take time out to say thanks for something that we use for free every day, something that has really changed the landscape of web applications and Internet-enabled businesses.
I write this blog every day in a Firefox browser. Mozilla and Firefox are still kind of amazing to me, because they feel like projects that just couldn’t possibly survive and thrive given how they were formed and how they came about (starting inside Netscape and AOL???).
As John Lilly pointed out in his post, the initial allure of Firefox to many of us was that it was a superior debugging and development tool.
And then with Firefox getting to a few percentage points of market share, and with Firebug making it easier for developers and innovators to build new types of web apps, the web was suddenly alive again. Vibrant.
And once getting mindshare as that development platform, it also gained mindshare for how the browser should work, and IE lost that mantle. Increasingly, IE appeared buggy and slow and incorrect.
John suspects it is too early to count out Mozilla today, despite the surge in popularity of Chrome, and the revitalization of Safari and IE:
It’s easy to count out Mozilla today — because obviously they’re off again, tilting at impossible windmills. The battle is done. Mozilla’s impact is obviously well past its due date.
But I wouldn’t count them out. I made that mistake 10 years ago, and it’s clear to me that we need a voice like Mozilla’s, and I’m optimistic that they’ll continue to find ways to do what everyone else knows is not achievable.
Already, I see the signs of stagnation in the other browsers. Safari has never really evolved the development support of Firefox, and it’s popularity rests largely on great integration on iOS and OSX. I’m hearing more complaints from developers who depend on Chrome that it isn’t behaving consistently between Android and the desktop. It’s the first time I recall hearing people complain that it is regressing rather than advancing.
It isn’t hard to believe that Apple and Google just have higher priorities than reinvesting in the browser year after year. Are these two companies so different than Microsoft that they won’t make some of the same mistakes and lower their browser investment too far?
Cracking the mobile browser market is going to be tough, but to this day, Firefox is my go-to browser on the desktop. And I suspect that many enterprise organizations will, over time, feel more comfortable standardizing on a widely adopted open source platform than on a commercial platform that reflects changing economic priorities.